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May was a fantastic month for travel. I started the month on a night ferry to the little island of Koh Phangan, Thailand. A rooster on board woke me up to a dazzling red sunrise around 5:00 am and I greeted May with the gentle sway of a wooden boat.
I ended the month back at home among family and friends, exhausted from yet another 24-hour travel day, but thankful. Here’s what happened in between.
Visiting Thailand and Vietnam
In Thailand, I spent a week with some of my best travel friends, Zach and Amanda from The Uncommon Pursuit and Avery from Anywhere and Averywhere. With no shortage of beach days and pad thai at the night market, this trip was definitely a highlight.
After Thailand, I took my second trip to Vietnam. Last time, I spent a few weeks in central Da Nang. This time I split my days stretch between the north and south.
The highlight was a 4-day motorbike trip on one of Vietnam’s most dangerous roads with Alex. For 4 days, we were totally off the grid, using a paper map to navigate through the breathtaking mountains.
I turned 27 this month! It happened while I was in Thailand and we celebrated by exploring the night markets and stuffing our faces with mango sticky rice to bring in my next year. This trip to Thailand was great for a lot of reasons – the food was excellent, it was fun to catch up with friends, and I got so many new ideas for where to take the blog next.
Seeing the Hanoi Train Street – If you’re in Hanoi, you have to check out the Hanoi train street! We went to the train street in the afternoon without checking the schedule and ended up having to wait four hours to see a train, but thanks to the adorable bars and restaurants lining the track, this was no problem at all.
When the train finally came, the cafes pulled back their awnings and everyone took a step back as the train came barreling down the narrow track. It was so much faster and closer than I was expecting and it was absolutely exhilarating!
The Ha Giang Motorbike Loop – This was a life highlight right up there with Komodo. The Ha Giang Loop was an absolutely spectacular road trip through the mountain region of northern Vietnam.
It was four days on a motorbike and every day the views got better and better. If you want to see what I mean, you can head to Instagram and look at the highlight titled Vietnam Bike Trip and check out my full post about it here!
The Heatwave – Shortly after arriving in Vietnam, a major heatwave hit. For several days, Hanoi was HOT, too hot to go out and do things, do hot to enjoy piping bowls of delicious food, too hot to do anything except talk about how hot it was.
Our air conditioner didn’t work well at our place in Hanoi and we were on the 7th floor, which meant that staying inside was way too hot and staying outside was way too hot. Things eased up a bit in Saigon, but the heat was replaced by rain.
Every day like clockwork the sky would open up around 3:00 pm and we would be trapped wherever we were until it stopped around 6:00 pm. It made it hard to go out and see the city the way I know it’s meant to be enjoyed.
The Chu Chi Tunnels Traffic Fiasco – One of the big things we wanted to see in Ho Chi Minh was the Chu Chi tunnels. The Chu Chi tunnels are a network of tunnels under Ho Chi Minh city that were used as hiding spots and logistical hubs during the Vietnam War. You can tour them from an entrance point about an hour and a half north of the city.
Having just come off a long bike trip and feeling confident in our skills, we rented a bike, braved the heat, and set out for the tunnels. After about an hour of driving, our GPS said we still had an hour and ten minutes to. The traffic was relentless. The drive was challenging. We stopped to buy pollution masks from a convenience store because of the exhaust.
After almost two hours of driving and almost no forward progress made, we decided to turn back. What was supposed to be a day trip to a famous historical site turned into over four hours enjoying the very best traffic Ho Chi Minh had to offer.
Luckily, the day was salvaged by a delicious trip to the Ben Thanh Market where too many bowls of pho were consumed.
New on the Blog
This month on the blog we traveled from Canggu to Lombok to Vietnam!
- The Ultimate Ha Giang Bike Trip – While technically published in June, I did the Ha Giang Loop trip in May so I’ll include it here
- How to get to Lombok from Bali – Practical tips to explore Bali’s neighboring island of Lombok
- Where to eat in Canggu Bali – You’ll probably drool if you read this post
Best Food I Tried This Month
In Thailand, I was reunited with two of my favorites: papaya salad and green curry with tofu. I ate this combo for at least one meal a day for seven days straight, always from the same woman in the same night market. I regret nothing.
In Vietnam, I ate way too much Banh Mi, Bun Cha, and Banh Xeo, Vietnamese classics that never go out of style.
Also, I think I drank an entire aquarium worth of Thai and Vietnamese iced coffees. Considering both of these delicacies are made with sweetened condensed milk, I’m expecting my teeth to fall out any moment now.
What’s Going On In The Blogging World
I tried my first paid Pinterest ad – I spent $25 to promote some pins on Pinterest. The pins got a fair number of impressions and click-throughs, it’s a learning curve. I think this is something I’ll try again in the future to experiment with different images and wording.
I need to write faster – I learned a valuable lesson after doing the Ha Giang bike loop. I do my best travel guide blog posts within a week or two of the actual trip. I always figured I could just take notes throughout the trip and write about it whenever I had time.
But when I sat down and cranked out 5,000 words about Ha Giang Loop in a record-breaking two days, I realized that I’ve been kidding myself. I need to write fast and I need to be disciplined about it. It was so much easier writing about the trip a few days after instead of a few weeks after.
No more backlogging cool stories. Which reminds me, I have so much Bali and Lombok content to get you guys caught up on.
I started working on my first line of digital products. That feels weird to even type! For a while now, I have had ideas for things I could create on this website but I hadn’t been organized enough to actually do it.
Welp, I got organized. I’m so excited because I have a line of digital online teaching products coming out soon that I’ll be telling you all about in the coming weeks!
This month I was planning out what would be included in each product and I started creating the items themselves. Next month I’ll be “pilot testing” everything on some friends and then rolling it out to you guys! Online teachers, get excited. This one is for you!
What’s Happening Next
I can hardly contain myself! I’m so excited because soon I’m doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m attending my first ever travel blogging conference!!
TravelCon is three days in Boston at the end of the month and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I had a virtual ticket last year so I got to see the material taught in each session and it was amazingly helpful.
This year, I’m so pumped to in-person and meet some of the people who I’ve looked up to for years. I know I’ll learn a ton of new information so just prepare for the “blogging” section of my June update to be packed! I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Other than that, I’ll be spending time with family, creating new products for my online teacher peeps, and exploring travel destinations in my own backyard.
Thanks for wandering with me!
I think the Baltic states are some of the best places to hang out in Europe, and are not over run with tourists. Riga, Latvia is a favorite of mine. Vilnius, Lithuania could also be an amazing place to spend a day or two.
Thanks for the tip!! These sound like fantastic places to explore!
Love the updates Nic! I relate to a lot of the things you said; like backlogging content and the love/hate relationship I have with Instagram at the moment. I’m feeling the pressure to post on Istagram because it’s such a powerful platform, but lately I’ve been losing followers and my average photo likes have decreased from 400 to <100. It seems like such a waste putting time into posting to get no response.
Thanks Erin!! I totally feel you in the IG front. I know it’s got a lot of potential but I’ve yet to crack the code haha! Wishing you best of luck in your blogging adventures. 🙂